UK City of Culture

Anglotopia article (world-wide-web)

May 14, 2010 by xwidep (Phil)

After the success of Liverpool as European Capital of Culture in 2009 the UK is holding a City of Culture competition for 2013 click here for more info.

Final bids are due in at the end of the May 2010; four cities are short-listed for the title: Birmingham, Derry, Sheffield and Norwich.

They are all excellent cities and I know some better than others but recently I was at a (totally unrelated) presentation in Richmond Virginia in the USA where I was told a whole load of facts about Norwich that were so interesting, that I thought I would share as many as I could remember with you.

For most of the medieval period and into the late eighteenth century Norwich was England’s second city and the wealth created by its merchant traders allowed it to become a very cultured city.
With many religious institutions considered as great European Christian centres but also functioned as important centres of learning, the universities of their time – the friaries in Norwich attracted scholars from all over Europe. This made Norwich a very multicultural city; by the mid 16th century almost 40% of the population was Dutch, Walloon, Flemish or Huguenot French.

Click here to view a timeline of some key events in history from a Norwich, England and World perspective, over the last 1,000 years (a fantastic document courtesy of HEART).
Norwich has a reputation for ‘doing different’, different as in innovative and/or exceptional. Subsequently Norwich has a huge collection of ‘firsts’, ‘largests’, ‘oldests’ and many other that are worth sharing.

Firsts:

• the first woman to write a book in the English language – Dame Julian of Norwich ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ in 1395
• the first black circus proprietor in the UK Pablo Fanque in 1841 (he’s celebrated in the Beatles ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite)
• the first industrial nurse in the UK Phillipa Flowerday worked at the famous Colman’s Mustard factory in 1872
• the first non-denominational cemetery in England 1819
• the first printed plan of an English City
• the first British made carpet 1583
• the first long distance commercial phone call in the UK 1878
• the first all metal aeroplane to be made in the UK
• the first driving school in the UK
• the first use in the UK of the post code system
• the first English local authority to install a computer
• the first conventional street to be pedestrianised in Britain
• the first woman to write a book in the English language – Dame Julian of Norwich ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ in 1395
• the first black circus proprietor in the UK Pablo Fanque in 1841 (he’s celebrated in the Beatles ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite)
• the first industrial nurse in the UK Phillipa Flowerday worked at the famous Colman’s Mustard factory in 1872
• the first non-denominational cemetery in England 1819
• the first printed plan of an English City
• the first British made carpet 1583
• the first long distance commercial phone call in the UK 1878
• the first all metal aeroplane to be made in the UK
• the first driving school in the UK
• the first use in the UK of the post code system
• the first English local authority to install a computer
• the first conventional street to be pedestrianised in Britain

Largests:

• the largest walled medieval city in England, bigger than the City of London.
• the largest collection of medieval churches in northern Europe
• the largest castle mound
• the largest and most elaborate provincial medieval Guildhall in the country
• the largest collection of decorative roof bosses in the world and the largest monastic cloister in the UK at Norwich Cathedral
• the largest intact medieval street pattern in Europe

Uniques:
• the Cathedral has an apsidal plan (a succession of semicircles) which is unique in Europe
• the dubious distinction of being the only city to be excommunicated by the Pope (following a religious riot in 1274)
• the only English example of a Beguinage (a community of lay women living a life of poverty and chastity)
• the only medieval friary to survive Henry VIII’s Reformation intact (The Halls – St Andrew’s and Blackfriars’)
• the only English residents to have their portraits painted by Rembrandt (the pastor of the Dutch Church in Norwich, Johannes Elsom and his wife)
• the Mall Norwich – the first example of a major shopping facility with a public park on the roof
• the last beheading execution in Britain occurred accidentally in 1885 when Robert Goodale was hanged, but the noose removed his head!

Thanks to Michael Loveday, Chief Executive of Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART) for inspiring me to write this and to the Pettus Family of Virginia for inviting me to hear Michael’s presentation.

The most iconic buildings in Norwich are known as the Norwich 12. Norwich Castle, Norwich Cathedral, The Great Hospital, The Halls – St Andrew’s and Blackfriars’, The Guildhall, Dragon Hall, The Assembly House, St James Mill, St John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Surrey House, City Hall and The Forum.

For more information visit their web site

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About X-Wide P

Award winning advocate for art, heritage & culture; fine artist, museum & gallery manager and mild mannered front man of Relevant Elephant, finest purveyors of rock-steady hip-hop mambo
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